Hurricane Florence made landfall on the Carolina coast Friday morning, unleashing extreme rainfall and battering homes with heavy winds.
In recent days, governors in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia have declared states of emergency for the towns and cities in the hurricane’s path.
"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast," the National Weather Service spokesperson in Wilmington, North Carolina, said late Tuesday night. "I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm."
For the people who have ignored evacuation orders or cannot afford to leave, the storm will create dangerous conditions. For the hundreds of thousands of people who have left their homes and businesses, the days ahead will be challenging as they wait for the flooding to subside and assess the damage to their homes.
As you watch the storm unfold and follow social media updates, you’ll probably feel inclined to donate to relief efforts, but may be unsure of how to help.
Here are five things to consider to make sure your generosity is effective.
1. Donate to relief organizations on the ground
As Hurricane Florence tears through and floods the Carolinas and surrounding areas, relief organizations will be standing by to perform rescue efforts, provide essential health services, and then assist in the rebuilding effort. Donating to groups like All Hearts and Hands, Americares, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the American Red Cross will ensure that the relief effort is well-funded.
Over 2,000 trained Red Cross disaster workers have deployed to ensure those affected by #HurricaneFlorence have a safe place to go. Watch as shelter residents in #NorthCarolina share how they're hunkering down with us. pic.twitter.com/ywdLvAVeW4— American Red Cross (@RedCross) September 14, 2018
#HurricaneFlorence2018 update from our own Tom Cotter—#Americares will be providing support to over 90 health partners that are across the Carolinas and Virginia as we are needed. #GetReadyNowpic.twitter.com/fOc9NOBMOo— Americares: Improving Health (@Americares) September 13, 2018
2. Donate to local food pantries and shelters
Nutritious food and water are always critically needed in the aftermath of natural disasters when people are displaced from their homes. The best way to ensure people get the supplies they need is to donate to food banks and shelters that will be able to source food and water locally and then handle distribution.
Harvest Hope, for example, is a food bank in South Carolina that needs additional supplies after having their shelves cleared in the days leading up to Florence.
3. Learn what supplies people really need
A constant complaint in the aftermath of relief efforts is the excess of unnecessary goods that are donated to affected areas.
“Historically, up to 60% of products donated during a disaster end up in landfills or otherwise go to waste,” Tiffany Everett, Good360’s director of disaster recovery, said in an article on the organization’s website. “It’s so critical that we’re able to make a dent in this number to ensure that affected communities get exactly what they need when they need it, as well as to mitigate the environmental impact.”
Rather than reflexively buying clothes, toys, and furniture, wait to watch news reports, read directives from on-the-ground aid groups, and social media posts from people actually impacted and then tailor your donations to their requests.
4. Realize that there are stages to the relief effort
The worst impact of Hurricane Florence will be during the next few days as people are evacuated, homes are destroyed, and whole communities are submerged underwater.
But the relief effort will be going on for the next several months as relief organizations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and private citizens rebuild communities.
Many people will need help with health expenses, others will need help finding new places to live, and others will need basic supplies to keep from going hungry.
Instead of just making a one-time donation immediately after the storm hits, remember to check in on the recovery efforts for weeks and months afterwards to see how else you can help.
5. Donate to crowdsourcing efforts
Hurricane Florence will likely destroy many people’s livelihoods and homes, and cause physical harm that generates hefty hospital bills. As a result, people without adequate resources will be setting up crowdsourcing pages to get through a difficult time and donating money straight to the source is a direct way to provide relief. Sometimes these crowdsourcing campaigns are illegitimate, so make sure you verify the sources.
Two verified pages include an animal rescue group called Frank's Nation that created a GoFundMe to assist in dog rescue efforts, and a group of veterans that created a GoFundMe to enable boat rescues.